Hubbard denies being the Prime Minister’s ‘Toy-Boy
Hubbard denies being the Prime Minister’s ‘Toy-Boy’
By Yasmine Ryan – for Scoop Auckland.
Front-running Auckland mayoralty candidate Dick Hubbard has endured relentless attacks from a right-wing contingent determined to spoil his chances of ousting the incumbent, John Banks. Slurs have attempted to slap a political-incompetent label on Hubbard also suggesting he is nothing more than a Labour Party patsy and a stooge for the Prime Minister Helen Clark.
But Hubbard tells Scoop’s Yasmine Ryan that he is his own man and that he will overcome the dirt, sleaze, innuendo that has been thrown at him during this campaign.
Auckland mayoral candidate Dick Hubbard says he is totally independent, a candidate with no links of any kind to the Labour Party.
The assertion is testament to a position that Dick Hubbard has found himself forced to occupy – a defender candidate fighting to ensure the Auckland voting public is not swindled into believing what his opponents would want.
“It’s been suggested, amongst other things, that the Labour Party has written my speeches and my advertisements. It has also been suggested that I’m Helen Clark’s Toy-Boy, and obviously both of those allegations are absolutely ridiculous,” Hubbard says with some resentment.
Hubbard says he is not a member of any political party, and never has been, and that it is untrue that he is part of Helen Clark’s inner circle of business confidantes.
“I don’t belong on any of her advisory committees at all, such as the Growth and Innovation Committee or anything like that, she doesn’t ring me for any advice, I don’t ring her for any advice. And the only time we meet is meet is very occasionally at social occasions, where I might be the key speaker or she might be the key speaker, and our paths cross.” The past few weeks of his campaign for the Auckland mayoralty has been increasingly vicious. Scoop spoke to Hubbard to get his response to the many allegations that have been fired against him.
On September 16 the National Business Review published a five-page feature. The piece, Hubbard says, was designed to undermine his reputation and spoil the strong position he had achieved against his main rival, the current mayor of Auckland John Banks.
But despite extensive investigations into Hubbard’s private and public life, the most they could find was a suggestion that Hubbard had allegedly lied in an interview with TVNZ interviewer, Kim Hill, about the number of Triple Bottom Line reports Hubbard Foods had made.
What the NBR made out to be a lie, Hubbard argues, was him correcting himself: “When you look at the transcripts from the interview, I said that we did one in 2001 and corrected myself to 2002. I never said ‘and’ at all, and my voice inflection shows quite clearly that I was correcting myself.”
The NBR story also contains an unflattering description of his wife Diana’s body language during a religious service, obtained by planting a reporter in the congregation. Hubbard defends his wife and that of the St George’s church that they attend, describing it as “a very standard, mainstream Anglican church”.
“Never in a thousand years would I have thought that a business publication such as the NBR would put someone in church. When you’re at church in a moment of prayer, and it doesn’t matter whether you’re a Christian or a Muslim or a Buddhist... prayer is a personal moment. And to have a journalist commenting on your wife’s body language during prayer is abhorrent. There’s just absolutely no other word for it.”
Hubbard announced Thursday morning (September 23 2004) that he would be taking legal action against the NBR, suing them for $1.5 million, which he will give to charity if successful. The lawsuit will focus on the NBR’s assertion that he lied in the Kim Hill interview.
The same day Hubbard announced the lawsuit, a four-page reprint of the article mysteriously appeared in letterboxes in Mt Eden, Mt Roskill and Epsom. It remains unknown who is behind the distribution. John Banks has denied any knowledge it.
The New Zealand Herald and Sunday Star Times newspapers reported that John Banks’ campaign manager, Brian Nicolle, had collected a PDF file of the NBR article from the NBR on Sept 16 and was given rights to reprint the stories.
The newspapers reported that the issue is being investigated as a possible breach of the Electoral Act.
Hubbard is unsure of who is behind the mail out, but says: “I can just assume that the widespread scale indicates there’s very considerable money involved”.
Hubbard’s reputation as a conscientious business man who treats his staff well has also been attacked, with allegations that his adherence to the “Triple Bottom Line” has been exaggerated, and that his reputation as a model employer has been based solely on a trip to Samoa he gave staff a decade ago. A spokesperson for the Food and Services Union which represents workers at Hubbard Foods recently told media that the mayoral candidate is an “average” employer.
Dismissing these assertions as “incorrect”, Hubbard says that there are many “wonderful” things going on in his company at the moment. He refers to a major literacy programme being implemented, as well as several school and community-based programmes. The energy reduction programme, which was identified as an area for improvement in the report by the company on its adherence to Triple Bottom Line, “is starting to produce some stunning results”, he says.
Although Hubbard says he was expecting “a tough and bruising campaign”, he never expected it to sink to this level of mudslinging.
He is reluctant to suggest the “hatchet job” article is due to past differences with the Business Round Table.
Neither does he wish to suggest the NBR’s reputation has been affected by the article. He did remark, however, that it would be interesting to see if there will be a change in the circulation figures of the publication.
So if Hubbard is not Helen Clark’s Toy-Boy (as other mayoral candidate Christine Fletcher had suggested), nor the Labour Party’s It-Man, then who does Hubbard admire above all other politicians? “David Lange”, he replies candidly.
Given that it was Labour’s David Lange who defeated National’s Robert Muldoon in the historic general election of 1984, and that Muldoon is the leader most admired by John Banks, it could be seen as a case of history repeating itself if.
If Lange’s great admirer Hubbard was to wallop Muldoon’s great admirer Banks in October’s Auckland mayoralty – will history repeat and see the current incumbent spark a near constitutional crisis and refuse to give up the chains? Time will tell.
New Zealand voters should have by now received their voting packs in the mail. Remember to cast your vote in the Local Body elections.
Voting closes at 12 noon on Saturday 9 October, for all District Health Board and local authority elections which include city and district councils, regional councils, community boards, and licencing trusts.
Preliminary results will be available later that day. For elections held under the FPP system, the preliminary results are expected to be released about 5.00pm.
For District Health Board elections, and any other elections where STV is used, the preliminary results are expected to be available from approximately 7.00pm onwards.
The final official results of all elections will be released between Wednesday 13 and Friday 15, after special votes have been checked and included.